My dad loved bacon. So on this Father’s Day I want to talk about my father’s intimate relationship with the prince of pork.

Growing up in the 1950s meant that mom did the cooking, even though she hated it, and dad tried immeasurably hard to appreciate the results. The only time my father was allowed in the kitchen was to roast the Thanksgiving turkey (we won’t even discuss the one and only time my mother tried to cook the bird and the inside was raw) and to make bacon.  My father was very particular about how he cooked bacon. He started it off in a skillet over low/medium heat. That gentle heat helped the bacon to stay flat. He would nurse that pan along, gently flipping the bacon five or six times until it was uniformly golden.

When I was four my dad had a heart attack. Of course, the doctor told him  no more bacon and for the rest of his life he never touched a slice. But on Saturday mornings, he would still cook it for my sister and me. Imagine the torture of being so close to porcine perfection, yet denied the indulgence.

Oscar Meyer was the only bacon available to my dad in the North. I am quite sure he would have broken the “no bacon” edict if he had gotten his hands on the bacon in the South. The preeminent bacon is Benton’s made in Madisonville, Tennessee. They smoke it using hickory wood in an old-fashioned wood stove. It is indescribably delicious. My other favorite is the bacon from West Wind Farms. If you live anywhere around Franklin, you can come to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and meet my favorite meat boyfriend, Ralph. He makes the stuff and it’s succulent.

So, I know my dad would disapprove of this, but I do believe that the best way to make bacon is to bake it, not fry it. Here’s how.

You line a baking sheet with heavy duty tin foil. Then you lay out the strips. Make more than you’ll need. You can use the leftovers crumbled on salads or for an instant BLT sandwich. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and pop the baking sheet in. The baking time will depend on the thickness of the bacon. I usually cook mine for about 20 minutes and then flip it. Continue cooking it until it’s golden brown. You will end up with perfectly cooked flat bacon. It is a thing of beauty, is it not?

Now, DON’T throw the grease away! Get yourself a glass jar with a lid and carefully maneuver the foil so you can pour the grease in. I do this in the sink because I always spill a little. Refrigerate the grease and use it to fry eggs, potatoes or onions.

11 Comments

  1. Joy McLemore
    June 21, 2010 at 3:01 am

    Every other year or so, we go with a group of friends to Devil’s Fork State Park on Lake Jocassee in Salem, SC, where we rent two cabins on the lake shore usually in the early Spring or Fall. Our friend Joe Treacy is always in charge of cooking breakfast for the group (varies from 15 to 20) and this is the way he cooks bacon. Says he learned to do it in the Marines. It’s my favorite way to cook bacon, too. And yes, I save the bacon grease – adds flavor to a lot of things!

  2. John Verville
    John VervilleReply
    June 22, 2010 at 2:20 am

    I remember my mom always cooking the bacon when I was growing up and she always kept the drippings. But she only used the drippings if she did not have enough grease for frying eggs. I have my own big cast iron skillet which I cook mine in. I find that the bacon has a better flavor when cooked in the skillet. But that is just me.

    While I like Benton’s bacon, I also like the country style bacon from Burger’s Smokehouse in Missouri. Maybe some of your boyfriend’s bacon when I come up for the Dillard contest.

  3. Noah
    NoahReply
    June 23, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    And believe me, mom, putting aside my superior love for sausage biscuits, the love for bacon has indeed lasted through the generations. Yummm 🙂

  4. Louise
    LouiseReply
    June 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Dad could also do justice to scrambled eggs. Yum!

  5. howard
    howardReply
    June 30, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    How long will the bacon drippin’s hold in the ice box?
    ~ Howard

    • the south in my mouth
      the south in my mouthReply
      June 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm

      I wouldn’t say forever, but at least a few months. You have to remember that in Terrell’s mama’s day the bacon drippings were left unrefrigerated on the stove top and as far as I know, nobody died. By the way, very good use of Southernisms: drippin’s and ice box. I commend you.

    • terrell jones
      terrell jonesReply
      July 2, 2010 at 10:53 pm

      Howard , it is like lard. good until it smells rank. in ice box a year or more that is if you can keep your offspring’s from throwing it out.

  6. Gail Kerr
    Gail KerrReply
    July 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Cath – I did it! I cooked a pound of apple-smoked thick bacon over the weekend for our first BLTs of the season. Delicious! Came out perfect. Except it set the smoke alarm off. Twice.
    Such is the price of beauty.

  7. howard
    howardReply
    July 7, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Bacon………thanks to you, I have just ordered for myself and several ‘foodies’ in the office – bacon from Alan Benton. Because I have been a diabetic for the last 2 years ( under control, I am happy to say) I have had to switch to Turkey Bacon ( ugh!) and since I am in the ‘twilight’ of my years 🙂 I think its time to ( once and a while) have the real stuff and have it from a local provider.
    I can’t wait…………

    • the south in my mouth
      the south in my mouthReply
      July 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm

      You will love it! It’s worth ditching the diet for a day. Hope to see you in Dillard.

      • Howard
        HowardReply
        July 19, 2010 at 2:42 am

        Catherine,
        I just recieved a case of Bacon from Bentons; yes, a case – We Edwardians believe in excess! Yiu know the saying –
        “As the purse is emptied, the heart ( and stomach) is filled!”
        I have Never, “ya hear me, cousin” NEVER had bacon like that!
        To quote an old Chinese Proverb:
        “If I am dreaming let me never wake, if I am awake let me never sleep”
        ……………I know and have had, Bentons Hams , but never his bacon.
        his bacon is one of the great taste sensations of my life.
        To eat Benton’s bacon, it is the kind of food that should be eaten while on your knees in the attitude of prayer.
        Thank you, Catherine for your tip on trying his bacon.
        Howard

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